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"the bliss of being buried"

Cos they're back with a new album. Here's what I thought of an old album. 

 Fabulous Muscles 
(5 Rue Christine Records, 2004)

The inlay’s a great flickbook. Put your dirty thumb on the edge and watch the images scatter by cover to cover. Woman with bullwhip up her fanny. A machine gun pointing into a bold Iraqi dawn. Tumescent stiffy disinterestedly pulled by some beefcake. Uniformed bestetsonned grunt pushing up for a squat thrust. Blindfolded child in vest perhaps sat on the knee of the great dictator, maybe just dimly aware of the pederast behind the viewfinder. All flesh of equal beauty, equal reality, equal plasticity, the same cheap thrill and priceless solitude – the underlying theme here being both pain (the infliction and acceptance of) and pleasure (the sheer banal tedium of it’s consumption) – so that the pink bar that dashes each shot suggests Xiu Xiu are floating amidst every frame, watching, learning, realising another cause for their life and another reason that they must die. What it all suggests is that Xiu Xiu are looking in on the world from the bubble that is their own heart. 

Xiu Xiu clearly & forensically understand strength, are aware of the groinlurch and gruesome cruelty that’s animated mankind’s progress since we were plankton at Plank-time. They love from afar the human tribe’s blissfully ignorant magic (modern life being a ritual they’ve never been invited to) but are both appalled by (and resigned to) their own inability to be settled in such a cruel world, their own everyday negotiations with reality that leave them feeling cheapened, impure, as damned as the damn world they damn so deeply. 

Devouring love like pep pills, needing flesh, hating their own inconstancy, their own foul confining physicality, XX are lovers you can’t change, so deeply sewn up are they with their own self-loathing, so locked on their own spiral into an early grave. By the time “Fabulous Muscles” fades out you realise XX have been seducing you into a final act cos the record is a half-hour-odd so desirous of brutalisation and the bliss of being buried you can feel the pull on their lips as your entanglement becomes more intractable, you can palpably sense Xiu Xiu’s need to shed the weight from their skeletons, become pure statistic, another body under leaves found by a party of people scouring the fields. “Fabulous Muscles” is the most fervent murder pact you’ve submitted to since “This Last Night In Sodom”. And its thirst for death makes it immortal. 

Their queerness is as clear and complex (cockhunger being the shame they relish and the chance for inclusion they reject) as it must be but is never explicitly earmarked as the cause for their angst (dig “Bunny Gamer”, “Mike”, “Brian the Vampire” and the title track). Rather it’s the sheer pathological insatiability of what they want that’s the problem, that isolates them and twists them out of kilter with a problem-free planet and a nation going deaf blind and mute simultaneously (check the brilliant “Support Our Troops”). Certain emblematic moments from childhood (“Crank Heart”), moments from the recent past (“Little Panda McElroy”), moments they know will occur in the future (“Nieces Pieces”, “Clowne Towne”), are set in motion and they outline just where the fuse wire ends up, what lives will be blown apart. Foreboding and the true self-dread are odd things for records to contain right now and as such I can’t call “Fabulous Muscles” a pleasurable experience. I can only call it true to life, a pack of lies, a human document. 

What’s real is the words. What’s unreal (and surreal in the sense that it touches deeper) is the music, a devastatingly orchestrated moebius chamber of mod-con agony, desolate isolationism, broke-assed lo-fi, bedroom wiring designed to terrify, and pure symphonic gothery that warps and wends it’s way around each sentiment as if each word is rubbing the national grid up the wrong way. Throughout, it is machines played by people, marshaled to the heart. It never seems pleased with itself. It’s a soul record from the hole where souls used to be, always shot through with that dead-eyed realisation that suicide isn’t a choice but an inevitability. As such it’s the timeliest record you’ll hear all year. So smart it could be Japanese. 
Neil Kulkarni

(from planbmag 2004)


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